Chris Jones could sense something had changed in the weeks leading up to North Texas’ exhibition tonight against against Oklahoma City.
UNT struggled through an injury-plagued campaign a year ago and would like nothing better than to put a tough season in the past. Jones and the rest of the Mean Green feel like they are ready to do just that and are excited about the opportunity today’s 7 p.m. game at the Super Pit presents.
“This will give us a chance to get a fresh start and have everyone on the floor,” Jones said. “Everyone is excited. Things are going well. We are playing with a lot more energy. We really want it.”
UNT finished 12-20 a year ago when several of its key players suffered injuries. Senior guard Brandan Walton played in just one game before a broken foot ended his season, while Jones played in just 16 games because of a foot injury.
Jacob Holmen was limited to 15 games and was forced to give up the game due to concussions.
UNT has spent the last several weeks trying to put itself in position to rebound this season and has been happy with the results.
“The guys have been focused and have worked extremely hard,” UNT coach Tony Benford. “This year, because of the new NCAA rules, we started practice early and have been working a long time. The guys’ attitudes have been great. The new rule has really helped us because of the guys we have added. They know our system and what we want to do.”
UNT wants to push the ball more this year than it did last season, when injuries cut into its depth.
The Mean Green feels much better about its ability to run the floor with Jones back at 100 percent and George Washington transfer Vertrail Vaughns on the roster. Vaughns will see time at point guard when Jones isn’t in the game and also will play at the shooting guard spot.
Benford said that UNT could have one of the best backcourts in Conference USA, which will be a critical as officials are expected to crack down on contact by defenders.
“We have really good guard play,” Benford said. “You have to have good guard play with the new rules with hand-checking. We are going to really benefit.”
UNT expects to have forward Colin Voss back for its Oklahoma game Nov. 11. The junior college transfer took a knee to the thigh in practice and has been out for several weeks with a contusion. ... Cincinnati transfer Kelvin Gaines is still recovering from a stress fracture in his foot that required surgery and is expected to return for the BYU game Dec. 3.